Word Play with Kids
Word play with kids comes naturally and makes writing and creating more fun.
For example, is a cough- sneeze a snoff or a cougeeze? Or is sneeze + cough = a snoff? If there’s not a word for something, why not invent one? And, why not entice your reluctant writers with such fun word play?
Word play in children starts early – we rhyme, we make up silly languages and we try to figure out words based on our knowledge of grammar rules. Last week I couldn’t figure out the plural of caboose. I mean, is it cabooi like cactus is cacti or cabooses like mooses? Kids do this all the time and it’s so important to language development!
Do you know that the dictionary makers add new words every year?
In Ralph Fletcher’s book, Pyrotechnics on the Page, Playful Craft that Sparks Writing, he suggests using the picture book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to show your writer(s) how authors make up words. Together, find the made-up words like “chicka” and “skoodle” and guess why and how the authors invented those words.
For older students, Fletcher recommends the Andrew Clements’ novel Frindle and the Harry Potter books.
What will you call made-up words? Fletcher says that Rich Hall, the comedian, calls these words “sniglets.” I think I’ll call my made-up words “knibrontons.”
2. Start a Wacky Word Book
It’s always fun if you do these things together so you’re both thinking about it and writing in your own books. Go ahead and borrow my “snoff” if you want to get you started. (Make your own books or use a store-bought notebook.) Consider making it like a dictionary and label each page in alphabetical order. Add definitions and illustrations to make it even better.
3. Invent New Animals
Try this wordplay idea: combine animal words and create a new animal. So a zebra + a lamb = a zamb? Now try to illustrate it!
4. Goof Around with Palindromes
Palindromes are words spelled the same backward and forwards like “mom”and “race car” and “Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!” (I LOVE Palindromes and just bought this shirt at Mental Floss to express my inner geekiness. You may notice it’s not quite a palindrome. . . )
So, how about messing up palindromes? Just write words backward and see if they sound cool? Like “kids” would be “sdik”. What would it mean? Or “boy” would be “yob”.